Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Sessions Sets Narrow Definition of and Financial Consequences for 'Sanctuary Cities'

In an apparent retreat on the war against cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement, the Trump administration has settled on a narrow definition of what it means to be a "sanctuary city," and limited the potential financial consequences for state and local governments.

By Joseph Tanfani

In an apparent retreat on the war against cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement, the Trump administration has settled on a narrow definition of what it means to be a "sanctuary city," and limited the potential financial consequences for state and local governments.

At most, the sanctuary jurisdictions will lose grants from the Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department _ not all federal funds, according to an order signed Monday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

During last year's campaign and the early days of the administration, President Donald Trump and Sessions frequently attacked cities, states and corrections agencies that refuse to assist with federal immigration enforcement, saying illegal immigration was fueling what they described as a surge in gang violence and other crime.

Five days after taking office, Trump signed an executive order that said "sanctuary jurisdictions" were not eligible to receive federal grants. The Justice Department on April 21 sent letters to nine jurisdictions, saying they were at risk of losing their grants from the department.

But U.S. District Judge William Orrick blocked enforcement of Trump's order nationwide on April 25, saying that it violated the Constitution and brought on "substantial confusion and justified fear" in local governments that they would lose all their federal grants, not just their law enforcement funding.

In an angry tweet, Trump called the ruling "ridiculous" and vowed to "see you in the Supreme Court!"

The Trump administration had never actually spelled out what it meant to be a sanctuary city.

Sessions' memo, a reaction to Orrick's order, says it will mean only places that "willfully refuse to comply" with a 1996 federal law that requires federal, state and local governments to share information about someone's immigration status.

That means Trump's threat may not amount to much. When cities and counties accept grants from the Justice Department, they already agree to comply with that law. It also means Trump's Jan. 25 order won't apply to cities and counties that refuse to honor "detainer" requests to hold people who are in the country illegally for arrest on immigration charges.

Immigration rights lawyers saw the memo as an admission by the Justice Department that the law was not on its side in the sanctuary city argument.

But Sessions' memo makes it clear that the administration has not given up on its goals of using the power of federal funding in the future to push for tougher enforcement.

"Going forward, the (Justice) Department, where authorized, may seek to tailor grants to promote a lawful system of immigration," Sessions wrote.

(c)2017 Tribune Co.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
Sponsored
Workplace safety is in the spotlight as government leaders adapt to a prolonged pandemic.
Sponsored
While government employees, students and the general public had to wait in line for hours in the beginning of the pandemic, at-home test kits make it easy to diagnose for the novel coronavirus in less than 30 minutes.
Sponsored
Governments around the nation are working to design the best vaccine policies that keep both their employees and their residents safe. Although the latest data shows a variety of polarizing perspectives, there are clear emerging best practices that leading governments are following to put trust first: creating policies that are flexible and provide a range of options, and being in tune with the needs and sentiments of their employees so that they are able to be dynamic and accommodate the rapidly changing situation.
Sponsored
Service delivery and the individual experience within health and human services (HHS) is often very siloed and fragmented.
Sponsored
In this episode, Marianne Steger explains why health care for Pre-Medicare retirees and active employees just got easier.
Sponsored
Government organizations around the world are experiencing the consequences of plagiarism firsthand. A simple mistake can lead to loss of reputation, loss of trust and even lawsuits. It’s important to avoid plagiarism at all costs, and government organizations are held to a particularly high standard. Fortunately, technological solutions such as iThenticate allow government organizations to avoid instances of text plagiarism in an efficient manner.
Sponsored
Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.
Sponsored
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?
Sponsored
As more state and local jurisdictions have placed a priority on creating sustainable and resilient communities, many have set strong targets to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with commercial and residential buildings.